Monday, June 9, 2008

Linton Kwesi Johnson ~ Dread Beat An’ Blood

As a kind of finish to the LKJ spotlight airing over on SJR here is a review I did earlier in the year on the Springline forum

Dread Beat An ' Blood was one of the first Reggae albums I brought back in about 1983 (Album originally released in 1978), and is still most probably the most powerful album in my collection for its political content and dark sound, and surprisingly or more so sadly it is still quite relevant today. The lyrics are drawn from a book of poems by LKJ about the trials and tribulations of British West Indians that was published in 1975 by Bogle-L'Ouverture.
Don’t however let the idea of an album of poems put you off. All of these poems are recited over heavy, heavy dub-reggae riddims, usually written in collaboration with renowned British reggae producer/artist Dennis Bovell. The majority of these songs are driven by throbbing bass lines, drum and percussion interspersed with minimal or short bursts of piano & keyboard quite often with heavy echo, which just enhances its dark and menacing sound.
LKJ takes the lead and sings / recites his poems over all of the songs except one: “Song Of Blood”, which features Vivian Weathers on vocals, his voice a Horace Andy style falsetto, (it is a shame that this is the only tune I have of his), sounds like a cry of pain and anguish for the need to fight, and that blood might / will be spilled for the cause, over the bass heavy driven tune.
“Five Nights of Bleeding” recounts tales of trouble between fellow West Indian gangs, and also the British police's over zealous use S.U.S laws and violence against the West Indian population in London and indeed throughout the country at that time. It is also a kind of rallying call to unite and fight together against oppression and the common enemy. “It Dread Inna Inglan” (my favourite) is just a great tune calling to ‘Free George Lindo’ a black man fitted up by the police for theft and burglary in Bradford, while the close of the album, “All Wi Doin Is Defendin”is another rallying call, and a kind of prophecy to the Brixton, Toxteth and Bristol riots to come in 1981. “Man Free” is the only real, (for want of a better word), ‘celebratory’ song and it describes the legal fight for and eventual freedom of Darcus Howe from Pentonville prison. This is sung / recited over a dark and brooding drum, percussion and bass rhythm. Darcus was the editor of the magazine Race Today, whom had first published LKJ’s poems back in 1974. He had been imprisoned for three months for assaulting a police officer.
This album must surely go down in the chronicles of time as being one the most explicit depictions of government supported racism and police brutality in 1970’s England, and for some does not make easy listening with its almost apocalyptic feel from the view of a person who was witness and subject to it.
I reckon this album should appear in the top 10 albums of all time, but unfortunately most probably never will due to its strong political content. Still in my humble opinion this is a true masterpiece and the opening line says it all....

“Brothers and sisters rockin’, a dread beat pulsing fire!”
Track List :
Dread Beat An' Blood
Five Nights Of Bleeding
Doun Di Road
Song Of Blood
Dread Inna Inglan
Come Wi Goh Dung Deh
Man Free
All Wi Doin Is Defendin
Mixing Engineer : Dennis Bovell
Engineer : Dennis BovellProducer : Vivian Weathers & Linton Kwesi Johnson
Vocals : Lila Weathers & Linton Kwesi Johnson & Vivian Weathers
Drums : Winston Curniffe & Jah Bunny
Bass : Vivian Weathers & Floydie Lawson
Guitar : Dennis Bovell & John Varnom
Rhythm Guitar : Floydie Lawson & Vivian Weathers
Keyboards : Dennis Bovell & Desmond Craig
Percussions : Linton Kwesi Johnson & Jah Bunny & Everald Forrest & Winston Curniffe
Recording : Gooseburry (London, UK)
Mixing : Gooseburry (London, UK)

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